The perennial Paramo debate

My 3rd Element Jacket before the deluge

Alan Sloman has kicked off another debate on the efficacy of Paramo as a waterproof, following his recent trip to the Dales. For some, this will be a complete turn-off as they have decided that Paramo doesn’t work for them. Paramo is a bit like Marmite, you love it or hate it and there seems to be no middle ground. If you are interested in the debate, hop over to Alan’s blog and read the comments.

I’ve been using Paramo for a long time and mostly I love it. However, I’ve come to realise that, like all gear, it has limitations. There have been occasions where Paramo has left me damp. I’ve not had a complete failure, but I see how it could occur. Firstly, I think Paramo can get overwhelmed in very heavy, driven rain. This has happened to me on a couple of occasions in the last three years. I’ve not ended up being soaked, but have been somewhat damp.

Secondly, contact with anything that soaks up water can compromise its water resistance, especially under pressure. This is a particular problem with rucksack straps. I can contrast my experience with my GG Mariposa Plus with my Osprey Exos 58. The Mariposa has waterproof straps and I’ve never had any problems with water ingress. The Exos has foam straps with some mesh. These seem to cause water to soak through the face material and pump liner to a base layer. I hasten to add that this was only after three hours of heavy driven rain. When I took off my jacket, there were two distinct lines of damp under the straps. I’m sure this wasn’t sweat as I haven’t had the same issue with the Mariposa.

I’ve come to view Paramo as a highly water-resistant soft shell rather than a waterproof. For 80-90% of the time it works well as a waterproof, but there are occasions when it fails. I’m happy to take this chance most of the time, if I’m on two day walks or the weather forecast is OK.

There are occasions when I’ve taken both Paramo and a hard shell. This might seem overkill. However, I like walking in Paramo. If the weather is poor, I don’t find it too hot, even in summer. I love the flexibility of venting (much better than most soft shells) and the protection that it affords in most weather.

I’ve been thinking about what to take on next years TGO Challenge as it will be the longest walk I’ve done in a while. At the moment I’m thinking that a Paramo/hard shell combo is probably the best idea. In terms of hard shell, I’m a fan of eVent. My Montane Quickfire (328g) jacket is excellent, but I’d like something a bit lighter and with a better hood, so I’ve taken the plunge and ordered a OMM Cypher smock after the good reviews that it has garnered from Maz and Bob.

If I take my Velez Adventure Light (560g) and a OMM Cypher Smock (240g), the combo is only marginally heavier than a 3rd Element Jacket (756g), but it gives me a lot more security and flexibility. The other attraction of the Cypher smock is its simplicity and packability. My only reservation is the elasticated cuffs.

Those are my thoughts on the debate.


32 thoughts on “The perennial Paramo debate”

  1. Hi Robin, I’ve been a Paramo fan for around 15 years now and am definitely in the ‘love it’ category. However, I have had all the occasional water ingress problems that you talk about, but personally find them outweighed by the comfort of the jackets. And after 15 years of wearing Paramo on call-outs with Kinder MRT, I’ve worn it in every conceivable type of bad weather Britain can throw at us! I have found though that the newer lightweight jackets and trousers (Velez Adventure Light etc), have not been as reliable as the slightly heavier ones – but not too bad if I proof them nearly every time I wash them – and always find myself reaching for my trusty Aspira jacket and trousers when the forecast is bad! When backpacking I do sometimes take an old Goretex Paclite jacket I have, but always find myself wishing I hadn’t if I end up wearing it! It’s all personal choice in the end though isn’t it? I do know some people who hate Paramo…

    1. Interesting observation on the lighter weight Paramo. As you say, most of the time, it’s great. However, on a long walk like the TGOC, a bit of extra insurance is comforting.

  2. I too noticed some dampening on my clothing when wearing my Cioch Glamaig which is also the ‘Anology system’. I felt a bit let down but then I did go outside in a hard rain. I agree with Robin in that it is good 80/90% of the time and it will with stand a certain amount of water. I still prefer wearing it over a hard shell purely because of the breathability leading to less condensation.

    Paramo staff in their CV store are ardent believers in the system being 100% water tight and always tell you to go home and try it under the shower! (They are sales people though!)

    I still like the idea of wearing the ‘Anology System’ eliminating the need for a waterproof unless absolutely torrential rain and as Robin suggests pulling a hard shell over the top.

  3. Hi Robin,
    I have a couple of Cioch jackets which have not let me down – so far. The 2009 TGOC started off particularly wet and the lighter Cioch Glamaig kept me perfectly dry.
    It is of concern to read of “soaked to the skin” experiences in Paramo gear. I still swear by them, especially for winter.

    But for the TGO I wanted something lighter.

    Last May on the TGO I used the PHD Alpamayo Smock. At 435 grms it’s not the lightest, but it is longer than most tops and it performs superbly. I will definately use this again.

    Interestingly, I met Bob C near Gaick Lodge and he really liked the OMM Cypher. FWIW, I managed with no problems wearing a max combo of L/S merino base, Dri-clime vest and the PHD Alpamayo. The weather last May was pretty dire. For camp I had a PHD Ultra vest and a Berghaus Infinity Lite jacket – but TBH I could have left the Berghaus at home. Next May I’ll use just the PHD Ultra Pullover.

    IMHO you could well be ok without the VAL, if you are happy with the OMM Cypher and a base/light mid-layer.
    When I did the 2009 TGO there were quite a few days when I wore just a L/S base and carried my Glamaig. You could end up carrying 800 grms on some days with the VAL/OMM combo.

    Neither with the Glamaig + base layer; or the PHD + base and vest was I cold or uncomfortable. It all comes down to personal preference. My priority is to ensure I am comforatble in all possible conditions – including what i may have to carry.

    The thought of being soaked to the skin gives me nightmare memories of when I, like Alan, wore a Blacks – cagoule!

    1. Thanks, Gordon. TBH I like wearing the VAL most of the time unless it’s really warm. The side zips are fantastic for ventilation and the sleeves can be pushed up. I will end up taking too many clothes as I like to be sure I’ve got some dry clothes and I like to have a few options, but that’s just me! As it’s my first time, I’m going to err on the side of caution as I don’t want to be worrying about what I might need. If I could find a decent windproof with proper venting and velcro adjusters on the sleeves (not elastic!!), then I’d be tempted to leave the VAL at home.

  4. Hi Robin,

    I know what you mean. I had some just-in-case gear too in 2009.

    I forgot to mention the Lite-speed windshirt in the combinations above. I still took a windshirt when I used the Glamaig.

    The Buffalo windshirt is about the best venting – and it has velcro on the sleeves; but doesn’t have a hood.

    Have a great time in your route planning – it is all part of the build up – and I hope you have a great first Challenge. May see you en-route or in Montrose.

    1. I hadn’t thought about a Buffalo windshirt. That’s an interesting idea. I wonder if anyone has used the Curbar version as that has a hood.

  5. Robin, I think I am with you on being happy with Paramo 80/90% of the time. I think your idea of having a minimalist eVent jacket is a good one for times when it has been slinging it down for hours. I think this is when Paramo may get overwhelmed. Having said this, I have been pretty wet in other brands just from condensation. Lack of this and comfort scores well with Paramo. If only some clever sort could somehow combined this attributes with some of the best from hardshells 🙂

  6. 80/90% of the time isn’t great, really. Not when you think the remaining 10/20% of the time is likely to be the time you could really do with it working perfectly.
    Any piece of gear that I felt I may need to back up because of concerns over it’s performance on a trip wouldn’t even get pack space.
    Hmmm… I think that’s the most complimentary I’ve ever been about Paramo 😉

  7. Agree with Seans comments on this subject of Paramo. Then again, I’ve never had any problems with the stuff either. I used Paramo on a C2C walk fine and dandy. Was pleased I took it.

    Besides, all ‘waterproof’ garments have limits anyway. There’s so many variables – but in the main, I find Paramo to be the dogs for hillwalking etc. I wouldn’t hesitate in taking Paramo on the TGO Challenge – I’ll likely not, mind as I think it may prove to be too warm a garment to wear over the trip. Well, a top at least. The Cascada trousers would be fine I reckon. 🙂

    1. Exactly, no waterproof system is perfect, hence the idea of using a combo. Don’t usually bother on short trips but I think it would be sensible for the TGOC. If nothing else it should ensure good weather. Might take an umbrella as well. 🙂

  8. I got wet in my Paramo top in the Dales. Why? I had not re-proofed it for ages. It was fine in terrible weather back at the start of the year.

    Its good kit. I aslo dont accept the idea its heavy and you can end up carrying 800g of extra weight in your pack. Your carrying it step by step as you walk. Its weight on you in the pack, or worn. Just take it.

    I at times wished I had the 3rd Element jacket on this years TGO Challenge. I would not take two tops Robin.

  9. Robin said : “Using it under a shower doesn’t replicate wind driven rain!”

    It does if you lie down. You’ll replicate the horizontal Scottish rain 🙂

  10. Hi Robin, Its all very good info isn’t it. I have been using the Cypher smock over the last couple of months although i havn’t backpacked with it and i havn’t yet reviewed it. With the waterproof figures at 40,000 hydrostatic head and 17000 breathability. It’s a top jacket although it’s like wearing a crisp packet. I can vouch for the waterproof capability being excellent. It is cold though and i would not solely rely on it being warm enough for the chally, you will need a good mid layer. The sleeve length is long and easily covers my whole hand. The cuffs are a damned nuisance and the thumb loops are only good for hands without gloves. The pocket is far too small. Sounds like a review here, i had better stop.

  11. Robin, I have just noticed that on the page for the active lightweight wind jacket they have the weight as 350gr when it should read 160gr. The 350gr appertains to the warmer version.

    1. Thanks Alan. Interesting but I would like a hood and venting options. A VAL with no liner would be interesting hence looking at the Buffalo Curbar.

    1. That’s an idea. I might contact them. What I’d really like is a Montane Litespeed jacket with venting zips and Velcro cuffs.

  12. I dont think you will get velcro and thin nylon type materials together because they don’t make good bed fellows. Sean put me right on that one.
    You might have to buy one and convert it yourself.
    I have the Montane wind shirt but i would prefer it to be a bit more water resistant. I wash it in Nikwax to improve it somewhat.

  13. Well, I have both Paramo (3rd Element), which is very comfortable, and a Berghaus Event which I used last year.
    In the Monday storm of 2011 I was dry in my Paramo, although I was getting the start of strap ingress (yep,Exos).
    Last year the event kept me dry, but I run hot, so I got condensation in the arms. And it makes a crap pillow unlike the Paramo. And Al had the same make and colour, which made us look like demented unlikely twins.
    I do wash the Paramo regulary. I Also proof it with spray on, not wash in. I suspect that wash in may not help the pumping layer. (Purely hypothesis).
    I am in two minds this year for the TGOC. I may well go back to the 3rd Element though, because I love the comfort and flexibity. But I do hate getting wet.
    My jury is still out.
    But I am erring back to the Paramo..
    And that is a definite maybe 😉

  14. A fascinating discussion!
    I was a paramo waterproof convert for many years,but over time my opinion has changed…
    My findings are that Paramo IS waterproof providing the following criteria are met,:
    1) Garment needs to be clean at all times
    2) No external pressure points .eg. from back pack straps and waste belt, or contact against wet surfaces from sitting or leaning up against wet surfaces.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that this frankly is too much of a hassle and limitation,and in my view Paramo is NOT a reliable or effective waterproof for extreme mountain conditions…strong wind and heavy rain.
    Paramo has let me down so many times up on a mountain top, that I’ve now decided to use membrane based waterproofs for comfort and safety.

  15. I purchased a cascada jacket in 2006 at go outdoors Hathersage. I took the jacket for a trial run up Three peaks and got a a severe soaking! It was that day lorries were being flipped on the m6!
    I write to paramo and was told to re proof it. The jacket was brand new.
    I didn’t wear it again and have used marmot since, until a very wet day up snowdon last week. I totally reproofed the jacket. Within ten minutes of driving rain I was soaked!
    Look skin is waterproof and although I was soaked, I was warm, whilst walking.

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